Igor Levit: On DSCH | Sony 19439809212

Igor Levit: On DSCH


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Label: Sony

Cat No: 19439809212

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 3

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 10th September 2021



The new album “On DSCH” by Igor Levit is a 3-CD discographic tour de force by “one of the essential artists of our time” (The New York Times). That the self-styled “maximalist” enjoys pushing himself to his limits – intellectually and physically – is well known, but the present project – two key cycles of musical modernism – puts all others in the shade. Levit is one of the few pianists who have performed these works live in their entirety.

When Levit performed Shostakovich’s Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues for the first time at the 2017 Salzburg Festival, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung described the occasion as a “major event in the musical world”. In May 2019, Levit’s performance of Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH in London’s Wigmore Hall prompted the Guardian to opine that it was unlikely that the work “has ever been played better”.

Completed in 1951, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues – a summary of all the major and minor tonalities – lasts some two-and-a-half hours in total, while Ronald Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH, which he completed in 1963, is an unbroken set of variations lasting nearly an hour-and-a-half. The letters DSCH spell out Shostakovich’s musical monogram using their German note names: D–Es–C–H = D–E♭–C–B.

Levit himself describes the 24 Preludes and Fugues as “a kind of musical diary”: “There is something utterly unique”, he says, “about this combination of warmth, immediacy and pure loneliness. For me, it is a ritual of self-exploration and self-discovery that deals with the most intimate questions.”

Ronald Stevenson (1928–2015), was a Scottish composer for whom the DSCH motif provided the basis for a spectacular survey of all manner of pianistic and stylistic possibilities over a span of more than three hundred variations. “The Passacaglia”, Levit believes, “is a veritable compendium of life, a kind of music that tells us of our responsibility towards the world as a whole.”

The album’s artwork is specially created by the internationally renowned graphic artist and book designer Christoph Niemann, who regularly illustrates for The New Yorker and The New York Times. His illustration for “On DSCH” offers a playfully abstract counterpart to this musical experience.


Levit is unquestionably the finest artist of current times to have added [Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH] to his repertoire and I heard him give a thrillingly visceral, epic reading at Wigmore Hall a couple of years back. This studio account is every bit as compelling, making you realise afresh what a masterpiece this is. ... The Bachian element in Stevenson’s homage to Shostakovich is also at the root of the Russian’s great cycle of Preludes and Fugues, premiered by Tatiana Nikolayeva in 1952. And, much as I admire her reading of this set, Levit is more than a match for her.  Harriet Smith (Recording of the Month)
Gramophone October 2021
Gramophone Editor's Choice

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